Scenic Drives in Portland

Must-Do Scenic Drives In Portland And Beyond (Places You Have To See)

Discover the best scenic Roadways in Oregon

Oregon does a fantastic job when it comes to spectacular road trips. The Beaver State is the mecca of lovely backroads and highways, and the fact that its terrain is so wonderfully varied makes driving through each and every one of them a real treat.

If you’re looking for a more personal way to see Oregon, consider getting behind the wheel and hitting the road. After all, rather than focusing on the final destinations of your journey, an Oregon road trip is all about making pit stops along the route!

From densely forested areas to vast desert regions and stunning ocean views of the Pacific, Oregon has a variety of spectacular drives wherever you look. If you’re still undecided where to begin your journey, consider some of the most beautiful routes in Oregon that you should add to your itinerary!

The Most Scenic Drives in Oregon

Without further ado lets get to some of the must do drives in Portland and beyond

Journey Through Time Scenic Byway

Journey Through Time is a time-travel experience that will take you on a journey through 54 million years of history! From Biggs, a small town known as a gathering and fishing site for Native Americans is where this route begins.

This beautiful drive will take you 286 miles through river canyons and into Oregon’s iconic John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where you’ll be able to discover 54 million years of life in its fossilized landscape.

The three sections of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument can be seen along this scenic drive. The Painted Hills is the area’s most famous attraction, where you can see a vast expanse of ancient hills colored in vivid reds, giving the scene the appearance of being on Mars’ surface.

Moreover, this byway will also have you crossing paths with ghost towns, old mines, ranches, and even railroad tracks, where you’ll be able to explore the state’s heritage.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway- Best Scenic Drive In Portland

haystack rock

The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, which stretches 363 miles along the coast, is Oregon’s most famous scenic drive for all of the right reasons. The state’s coastal route provides spectacular views of the rugged Oregon coast and the Pacific Ocean as it passes through breathtaking vistas of seaside cliffs, lush valleys, sand dunes, tide pools, tiny fishing villages, and more!

What is the most excellent thing about the Pacific Coast drive? Even though it’s lengthy, most visitors pick a part of it rather than drive the entire route if they are on a tight schedule. Make sure you allow plenty of time for pit stops and taking in the views along the drive because Oregon has some of the most fantastic attractions along this route!

Trees to Sea Scenic Byway

Oregon reigns supreme in terms of varied terrains, and if you can’t make up your mind between exploring The Beaver State’s lush woods or the coast, this journey has it all!

This drive, which stretches 68 miles from the attractive Tualatin Valley to the wild Oregon coast, features a lot of stunning sights to see. While the journey may be completed in just over three hours, spending a few days along the way is highly recommended to discover the region’s natural wonders.

There are several stops on this route that you can make. I suggest a wine-tasting in Tualatin Valley, hiking at Tillamook State Forest, and seeing whales and puffins at Cape Meares State Park.

Historic Columbia River Highway- Our Favorite Scenic Drive in Portland

multonomah falls

The Historic Columbia River Highway is one of the most scenic drives on this list for waterfall lovers. The Highway winds through the Columbia River Gorge and offers beautiful views of the river, waterfalls, the mountains, and more.

There are plenty of stops along the way where you can enjoy the scenery, waterfalls, hiking trails, and explore the area. Along the way, you can stop at several places like Multnomah Falls, and the Vista House.

You can find more information about the Historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon State Parks website.

Hood River Fruit Loop-Feels Like One of Those Good Ole Country Drives

Fruit loop in hood river area

The Hood River Fruit Loop is a must do 35-mile drive around the Hood River Valley in Oregon. Along the way, you’ll experience views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, as well as lush wildflower meadows on Mt. Hood itself. The route includes stops at various orchards, farms, and wineries where visitors enjoy the scenery, baked goods, wine, and the many varieties of fruit. A couple of our favorite stops along the way are 

Mt. Hood Winery, Cascade Fruit Company, Hood River Distillers, and more.

Be sure to download the Hood River Fruit Loop Map so you don’t miss any stops along the way.

Mount Hood Scenic Byway- One of Our Favorite Mountain Drives

Mount Hood

Driving Time 3-4 Hours

The Mount Hood Scenic Byway begins in Troutdale and ends in Hood River. The Byway climbs up the mountain and passes through alpine lakes, wildflower meadows, and dense forests. The drive is a beautiful way to see some of the best scenery that Oregon offers.

The route will take you from Sandy, Oregon, to Government Camp on Mount Hood. The drive is about 90 miles long and takes an average of 3 hours. You’ll pass through small rural towns and cross a few rivers as you climb up the mountain. A couple notable communties you’ll pass as you go up the mountain are Welches, Rhododendron, Zigzag and Government Camp.

A drive on the Mount Hood Scenic Byway is a must for anyone visiting Oregon.

Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway AKA “Century Drive”

Driving time: 3-5 hours

The Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway is a National Scenic Byway that winds 66 miles in Deschutes and Klamath counties. The route begins on Bend’s west side, where OR-372 quickly ascends to Mt. Bachelor. The Cascade Lakes Highway or Century Drive is called this road because it was once a 100-mile/161-kilometer red cinder loop road.

The route travels past some of the most picturesque lakes and several reservoirs on the upper Deschutes River, providing stunning mountain views. The byway offers outstanding views of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters (Oregon) mountains.

As you descend from Mt. Bachelor to Dutchman Flat, you’ll get an excellent view of Broken Top Mountain, which offers a unique chance to see a stratovolcano – a tall, traditional volcano. The numerous lakes in this region were formed by volcanoes and glaciers working together; many were formed in basins scoured by ice and blocked by lava dams.

The scenic drive goes by an enormous wet meadow at the northern end of Sparks Lake, which is dotted with islands and has a picturesque waterway that covers 250 acres and contains much of its shoreline jagged lava. The lake was one of our favorite stops along the way.

Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway

This byway provides a 106-mile/171-kilometer journey through the mountains west of Baker City, which has long been a lucrative hunting ground for Plateau Indian tribes and later where miners came to seek their fortunes.

The Elkhorn Mountains and Baker Valley are really lovely places, full of interest and history. You’ll experience country rich in scenery, geology, and natural resources. Many recreational opportunities are available along the way, including hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, boating, skiing, and hiking.

The mountains are the main feature of this route, but you will also enjoy plenty of other beautiful scenery along the way. The Elkhorn Scenic Byway is an Oregon state and National Forest designated byway. The 106-mile loop takes you through the Elkhorn Mountains; 

Make sure to take your time and enjoy the views!

Southern Oregon Scenic Drives

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (Includes Crater Lake)

crater lake

Crater Lake is Oregons only national park, and this 140-mile loop is the perfect way to see the state’s volcanic countryside!

Along the route, you’ll have stunning views of alpine lakes and snow-dusted mountains, all of which were formed as a consequence of the state’s volcanic activity. The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway also includes the famous 33-mile loop around Crater Lake’s rim, making it a fantastic way to reach the national park’s most stunning viewpoints while also providing you with some insight into its volcanic environment!

Outback Scenic Byway

Oregon Outback Scenic Byway

Driving Time 4-6 hours

Lush trees and expansive desert views? Yes, please! 

This 171-mile route will take you from the alluring Deschutes National Forest to the high-deserts on the California border, making it an ideal spot if you’re searching for a short trip with a lot of variety in scenery.

This journey begins in La Pine and finishes near Lakeview, showcasing a perspective of Oregon that isn’t as well-known as the typical lush landscape. The scenery will change abruptly from lush flora to plains, alkali flats, and rocky terrain as you drive away from the forest.

The entire journey is jam-packed with breathtaking vistas, including a towering collection of rock barriers known as Fort Rock, an alkaline lake where wildlife sightings are routine, caves with the oldest evidence of human existence in North America, and so much more!

Other Notable Scenic Drives in Oregon

  • Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
  • Cannon Beach to Rockaway Beach

Get Out And Explore Oregons Scenic Drives

I hope that this list of the most beautiful drives in Oregon helps you plan your next vacation. While I might go on for hours about other beautiful drives, these ones, in particular, are a fantastic way to start exploring Oregon’s wonderfully varying terrain!

Have you ever driven through Oregon? What are some other beautiful drives that should be on this list? Tell me your favorites in the comments below!

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